Monday, 22 July 2013

"White is Unplayable"

It happens every time a new Magic set comes out, someone immediately announces that a colour or a combination of colours is unplayable in limited and the idea is widely parroted.

Every time I hear this nonsense I think of Scars of Mirrodin.  When that set came out the general wisdom among pros was that there were only two decks - metalcraft and infect - and that blue was virtually unplayable as a result.  Of course because of this people who actually drafted blue started cleaning up.  It turns out that a 3/3 flier for five is good is pretty much every limited format ever, and getting handed them 13th and 14th pick lets you make a pretty good deck.  And then everyone got turned onto just drafting giant things and smashing.  Even with metalcraft turned on it could be hard to fight an Alpha Tyrranax.

And what about Gatecrash?  Having read the cards everyone said that Dimir was very weak.  But I watched a fairly mediocre player stream draft after draft where he just ran people over by forcing Dimir.  His opponents must have been very confused as their supposedly powerful Boros decks were massacred by Gutter Skulks, having been told that this colour combination couldn't work.

So when I hear people saying White is unplayable, or even weak, in Magic 2014 I am quite skeptical.  One thing I know is that is everyone else avoids drafting white then somewhere between two cheap common removal spells and a common phantom monster you are going to be able to put together a pretty nice deck out of it.  Generally, the best deck to be in is the one that no one else is in.

Is White actually weaker than the other colours?  It's possible.  In core sets deck cohesiveness is usually less important than card quality.  Counting commons that I generally would be unhappy to be playing, white has four, blue has four, red has three, green has three, black has two.  But even then sometimes things surprise you as the format shapes up.  For example, I might not be giving Armored Cancrix enough credit for it's ability to stop ground attacks while your fliers win.  In white I sure don't like Divine Favor, but it doesn't fall into the deep unplayable category occupied by black's Shadowborn Apostle.

There is the flip side of that where black seems to have more commons that are very good as well as having fewer that are poor.  It's hardly enough to condemn white to the status of unplayability.

Now I understand that people are prone to hyperbole and that Magic players are no exception.  But these kinds of ideas really do take hold for a time.  You aren't going to roll people with mono-white the way that people got rolled by Dimir in early Gatecrash drafts, but if everyone else is shying away from it then there are opportunities to capitalize.

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